Sustainable chocolate ideas

Photo: iStockphoto.com/YinYang

Chocolate treats just got better—here's a few tricks from top eco-chocolatiers.

Chocolate has a way of being on everyone’s mind—and quality really matters. Learn about the issues and find out where to go to treat your sweetheart or friend (plus a few ideas for chocolate-induced fun). For a truly guilt-free gift, turn to Canadian chocolatiers producing fair-trade and organic chocolate treats.

Truffles have never been so green

Why choose organic and fair-trade cocoa? Well, according to the Pesticide Awareness Network, production of cocoa is second only to conventional cotton in its use of pesticides. In fact, at least 30 pesticides are used in growing cocoa conventionally and many are considered highly toxic. In addition, more than 75 percent of chocolate consumed in the U.S., for example, is produced in Ivory Coast, where the majority of cocoa farmers live in poverty and are severely underpaid.

Camille Gilbert, CEO of Zazubean in Vancouver, says that because conventional cacao production is pesticide-heavy, it creates long-term problems for the surrounding eco-system. “We believe that every time pesticides are used in the growing process the impact is greater than what can be measured in the residuals of the final product,” she says. For Zazubean, which produces organic, fair-trade chocolate bars, going 100 percent organic and fair-trade certified was a natural choice, she adds.

Brad Churchill, the founder of Choklat in Calgary is only one of two chocolate makers in Canada producing chocolate from bean to bar. However, as the owner of a small, independent business, he says suppliers were reluctant to provide him small amounts of fair-trade cocoa beans. As he puts it: “It’d be the same as me walking to the Saskatchewan wheat pool grain elevator with a little mixing bowl saying, ‘I’d like to buy five pounds of grain to make some flour of my own.’” But Churchill persevered and believes the extra costs and efforts were well worth it. He has complete control over the quality of the beans he chooses, which, he says, directly affects the final taste of the chocolate.

For the love of chocolate

Another chocolatier, Colleen Wong-Sala of Kakayo Chocolate Company in Toronto, similarly believes in producing only organic, fair-trade sweets. Kakayo’s chocolate is sourced from co-operatives that work with plantations in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Paraguay. Her sweet and savoury eco-friendly truffles come in a variety of flavours from mouth-watering chai masala to sweet mango smoothie.

For a special evening that will entice the senses, Wong-Sala recommends pairing chocolate and cheese. For a sweet combination, she suggests pairing a Kakayo Coconut Pistachio truffle with smoked gouda cheese. If you’re looking to add a hint of spice to the evening, try a Spicy Hot Tamale truffle with chili Monterey Jack or blue cheese.

For a fun twist, make a fondue. Jan Peavoy of Dark Side Chocolates in Vancouver, says chocolate is a natural aphrodisiac and is guaranteed to heat up your night. Try dipping bananas, mangos, strawberries and papayas in sweet chili chocolate.

Zazubean offers a racy Valentine’s Day gift pack: The “Too Sexy 4 Pack: Flirt & Smooch with your Hottie & get Nakid” which includes their chocolate bars Flirt, Hottie, Smooch and Nakid (Dark Cocoa Nib). The Flirt and Hottie bars both contain arousing goat weed, damania leaf and maca root, just in case chocolate alone isn’t powerful enough to boost your libido.

In general, organic and fair-trade chocolate is widely available, with top name brands being Dagoba, Cocoa Camino and Sjaak's Organic Chocolate.